Monday, April 14, 2014

Slice of Life - Where I'm From

Join me and others writers who post weekly Slices of Life, each Tuesday, throughout the year at the Two Writing Teachers website.  Today's slice is an assignment I gave my poetry group in my class. It is inspired by the poem Where I'm From by George Ella Lyon. See his poem and website at I'm excited to hear the Where I'm From poems written by my students and a little scared to share mine.

Where I'm From 
by Max Maclay

I am from the mountains,
Tall, green and piney,
Whispering in the wind,
Bright in the moonlight
And dark as space.
From orange lichen-covered rocks
Scraping my knees, and thighs.
Bloody red sacrifices to stand King.

I am from the city,
Silver spires shooting high,
Crowded, noisy, smelly,
Bike paths, music, broken glass
And Red lights.
Green lights too.

I am from brown and dusty cornfields,
Pick-up trucks, apple pie, cowboys hats,
Predicting the rain,
And Friday Night Lights.
I did not belong there,
But now I am from there,
And it lives in me.

I am from my parents' love.
Showing me courage, 
How to grow,  
To do Right, even when it's hard.
How to do it wrong
And keep moving on.

I am from divorced parents,
Three step-moms,
Only one "evil"
(and she saved my life.)
Bonus parents, bonus moms, bonus presents, 
Bonus love.

I am from blueberry buttermilk pancakes on Sunday,
Gingerbread Men, Christmas cookies, 
And stale candy snitched from the gingerbread house.
I am from grilled meat, baseball on TV, 7UP in the hammock
And inappropriate use of pepperoni before a trip.

I am from a classroom and a school
Games, puzzles and wordplay,
Puns, jokes and cake on the first Tuesday of the month.
A recipe shared, 
Again and again and again.

I am from the doctor's office,
Sadly supportive, finding the bright side, optimistic.
Trying for six years,

I am from another damn baby shower,
Another damn pink baby announcement,
Another damn fake smile,
Another batch of misplaced and uncontrollable resentment.

I am from the delivery room
Praising modern science
Responsible for more than I ever imagined.
I am one-for-three

I am from the deeds undone,
Letters unwritten, 
Hugs missed,
Apologies unsung.

I am from altitude's thin air, 
Snatching my breath before I'm done,
So high, the earth curves away,
The colors impossible.

I am from the mountains.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April is National Poetry Month - "Wait Five Minutes"

April is National Poetry Month. After successfully completing the March Slice of Life Challenge, I am going to try and write and post poetry often this month. I will have to figure out where to link up to share beyond Facebook, but I figure it's more about the writing than the page views at this point.  Here is my first April Poem, inspired after two days of playing in Summit County, Colorado with my family.

Wait Five Minutes  by Max Maclay

Jackets on,
Flakes swirl
In large catchable numbers.
They do not stick

Jackets off,
Sun shines
Icicles drip
Rivers are born.

Clouds drift in and out,
April in the high country.

Sledding with Clara in the sun and snowflakes

Monday, March 31, 2014

Earworms of the Musical and Overactive Brain Varieties

Link up or join me at
for the Tuesday Slice of LIfe
Earworm: A song that sticks in your mind, and will not leave no matter how much you try. - From

There are two serious earworms in my head right now. The first is the entire soundtrack to the musical Frog and Toad which we bought from iTunes after seeing the production at my school. The songs are wonderful and my daughter loves them, so we've heard them A LOT! It seems the only way the song about eating cookies moves on is when it is replaced by the one about being almost Christmas. Having just typed those two phrases, they are competing for my brain so I've had to fire up some music on my computer for brain redirection.

The second earworm is an issue I'm having with some people in my life. The details are unimportant for this post, but it's been very frustrating, and actually makes my heart beat hard enough it seems to pound in my ears whenever I think of it. While it does not totally encompass my mind, it seems to pop up several times an hour and I'm pretty tired of it.  All I can think about is an upcoming meeting, going through various scenarios and what my actions could or should be. I hope that the decisions I have made, and will make, will be the right ones. This situation has really made me question myself professionally and personally about the type of person I am. 

I have some high expectations about myself, who I think I am, and how to take actions that help me be who I want to be. Like everyone, I have plenty of failures I dwell on and successes I worry I over-exaggerate to show myself in the best light possible. Self doubt is a tough emotion to deal with and it's been creeping into my mind a little deeper than I wish it would lately. 

But tonight, I was reminded of a success I have forgotten about. A classmate from college posted about me on an alumni Facebook page, on a thread related to people they had lost contact with from college. I remember her, and how we were always friends, even if we didn't hang out much. Here is what she posted.

"#ILoveYouMan Max, you are still my hero for making sure I was ok that night our freshman year. #knightinshiningarmor"

To be honest, I don't remember the specific incident she is referring to. I have a vague image in my memory of helping her with something, but my freshman year of college was actually twenty years ago and I don't know what it was. I have some ideas of what it could be and I'm sure if I asked she would tell me. But part of me wants to leave it a mystery. It doesn't really matter if I know or not. What matters is it made my day, that someone remembers a kind or even "heroic" action from twenty years ago. 

I like to think there are lots of heroic moments in my past, where because I was there, someone's world, or at least moment, was better. It gives me the strength to move forward and trust in myself. If I took the right actions, as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, that still matter to someone twenty years later, I can trust myself to do what is right in this situation. That is the slice of my life I needed today.

This is not me :)
By the way, if you have an earworm (the musical variety) stuck in your head, the website might be able to help. The below is cut-and-pasted from the website:

We created this site for those of you that have a song stuck in your head and you can't get it out no matter what you do. Using the latest in reverse-auditory-melodic-unstickification technology, we've been able to allow our users to “unhear” songs by hearing equally catchy songs. So really all we're doing is making you forget your old song by replacing it with another one... sorry.

photo credit: <a href="">Cayusa</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SOLSC 31 of 31 - The End or just the Beginning?

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

Go to Yesterday's Slice
Copy the top
"New Post"

The keys tap quietly as I type, with mostly five of six fingers. The Space Bar makes slightly louder noises as I push it down with more confidence because it's bigger and easier to find. The delete key is a rapid staccato as I erase whole words, or even lines to edit, spellcheck or change. A pause in the sounds as the cursor moves via arrow keys or mouse to reach above. Tapity-tap to change something, and then another pause, as the cursor returns back to where it was before. 

For the past month, a slice of each day has been to sit down and write  I've written to you while I have been happy, tired, mad, thoughtful, nostalgic, or whatever my "normal" state of mind is. Slices have been composed at school, Starbucks, the bathroom floor during my daughter's bath (like this one), the couch (especially when I was not sleeping), and most often at the dining room table.

Some days the words flowed easily from my fingers to the keys. Other days it's been a struggle, inspiration absent, and I cringed when I hit the orange "Publish" button, knowing that others would read it. To protect my ego in those moments, I've continually repeated to myself that this blog is like a writer's notebook. I need to write a lot to find a few gems and it's likely that 90% of what I write is the equivalent of manure; a natural and necessary excrement of living and growth, but not worth spending much thought about. 

Just as a garden does well with fertilizer, my writing confidence has grown with each post, even the manure ones. I have several posts I'm very proud of and even excited to expand. While I usually pride myself in sensory description and scene setting, I have been willing to share poetry, memoirs, and I am realizing that I others find my writing humorous when I mean them to. 

I can not say enough about how much each comment from you has meant to me. I wish I had commented more for other people, although I did have some good marathon days of catching up. So thanks if you gave me feedback or support, online or in person.

I was lucky to have so many people near me slicing away each day. Linda, Kam, Suparna, Katie, and my wife Susan were there for support and inspiration. But my other secret helpers were a sticker chart and a class of twenty-two students slicing along with me. Doing the Classroom SOLSC has been amazing for me as a teacher and truly inspirational as a writer. Daily, I have been astounded by my students' writing. They are so brave, real, and their voices shine out from their blogs! I not only have a better idea of how to help them as students and writers, but I know them better as people. And I have to say, having my name on the bottom of the sticker chart in the classroom was pretty helpful as well. I'm okay if they are better writers than I am, as some of them are, but I don't want to be out-hustled.

As I reflect on what it means to me, to write each day, I am excited by the possibilities. I want to write, and while I don't quite know how to share it beyond this blog, I expect that I will. Without a sticker chart, or a place to post each day, I probably will not write each day once this challenge is over. But just as I know I can climb a mountain, or survive a long school year, because I've done it before, I know I can do this too. My mental stamina for writing is stronger than it has ever been and since I believe in it, it exists, and this is only the beginning for me as a writer.

Notebook photo credit: <a href="">Theryn Fleming</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Pen photo credit: <a href="">kfergos</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

SOLSC 30 of 31 - PUNishing my students

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

I read the news today and found that corduroy pillowcases were making headlines. Actually, I have had a draft on my blog for a while that says "this will be my post about puns," because I love wordplay, puns and silliness. I have quite the repertoire of puns and can go on for extended periods about cows, trees and other subjects. Some puns I use over and over, and some come to me in flashes of inspiration during the day. I'm worried that my students will be going through pun withdrawal so here's a post where I PUNish my students so they know I'm still thinking of them during break. I use first or last names because otherwise, I think this might be impossible.

Okay class, you are all on spring break and now is a good time for me to be Aaron some things out. I know Abby a little harsh at times, but it's stressful work when teaching is how I Briahn home the bacon. Often after I get done lecturing you about something, I'm like, "Sorry Charlie, I feel like I'm trapped in an Eddie, circling back to the same point over and over." Wyatt do I do it? Because you don't look like you're listening as you chew on your Etti-shirts and Rolls around on the carpet.

Enough remembering last week. Let me tell you about my break. I spent Hanaurer-Hunter(ing) for my cook book because I wanted to Russell up a cake for you all when we get back. But I dropped it on my toe and became a one-legged-Hopper, Jason my daughter, trying to cover her ears so I could curse. The pain was horrible and it felt like I'd been struck with an Aro.

Julia know that I think I might lose the toe nail? I Kam hopeful that I will still be able to walk well enough to see the opening of the new musical downtown. I hear it's a Barbie musical and the Kendals blow the Lydia off the place because they voice it to the Max! I'm am worried that I'll be Nate and miss the show, which will make me Brody about it until I consider Rowan across the ocean to see it open in London. Deep breath. Deep Breath. Time to be Sloan down. I'm sure it will be alright in Theo end.

Here are two video clips. The first is from Master and Commander. The best part is what the doctor says after the pun. The second is from Punoff 2012 a real competition each year in Texas. Both clips are clean and fun, unless puns leave a bad taste in your mouth. Thanks to Linda for showing me how to embed videos.

Baie for now!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SOLSC 29 of 31 - Wiped Out

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

In the fall of 1998, it was my first year teaching in Olathe, Colorado. I taught two classes of chemistry and six classes of physical science, was the freshman basketball coach, assistant baseball coach, and National Honor Society sponsor. You might say I was kind of busy. One thing I learned was that the sunsets in western Colorado rival sunsets anywhere in the world for their beauty and consistency. The windows in my classroom faced west and I usually watched three or four a week from there while I tried to figure out what I was doing as a first year teacher. However, I usually never saw sunsets on Friday nights because when I wasn't at a sporting event, I left as soon as possible after the kids were gone.

You might guess what a twenty-three year-old man would do on a Friday night, but for me you'd likely be wrong. No matter what I had planned, I usually ended up asleep on my $5 love seat in front of the TV by 5:30. Somewhere in there, I would make a bachelor's dinner of mac 'n cheese, or hamburger helper, or frozen pizza, but mostly I crashed hard and early Friday nights. Teaching took so much time and energy my body could not keep up and it just hit shut-down mode.

Friday, March 28, 2014

SOLSC 28 of 31 - First Albums with My Own Money

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

I was twelve, my brother was eleven, and we were ready for some of our own music. While we did have a collection of music we shared, most of it was mix tapes our dad had made, or a few pop music cassettes our mom had. We were listening to the radio more, and realizing that there were stations other than NPR, classical music, 50s/60s Oldies and Jazz. One problem was, music was really expensive. Another problem was, we didn't really want our music to be judged by our parents before we bought it.

But Patti, our new stepmom, was willing to take us shopping at the Media Play in the mall. We raided our money stashes, pocketing crumpled bills and figured we could probably afford three tapes. We brainstormed cool bands we thought we had heard of, but to be honest, we were pretty clueless.